In one of the greater injustices of late, the headstone of a deceased 5-year-old boy was repossessed after his family couldn’t afford to pay for the marker. When his parents, Wayne and Crystal Leatherman, visited their son’s grave, they saw that it had been replaced with a tacky, plywood slab.
According to the Charlotte Observer, the parents of Jake Leatherman learned of the repossession when they visited their son’s grave earlier this month. You can imagine the North Carolina family’s horror when they realized that his gravesite had been degraded. In place of the headstone was mud and a slab of plywood.
5-year-old Jake lost the battle with leukemia last year. Shortly after, he was laid to rest at Hickory Cemetery in Hickory, NC. His parents purchased a grave marker from Southeastern Monument Company. After they failed to make payments on the marker, however, the company removed it from the site.
Said Wayne Leatherman, “Disbelief? Anger? I don’t know how to put this into words. I had a hard time going to the grave anyway, but now there’s a hole there. It’s just wrong.” Crystal added, “He repossessed it, like it was a car. This is my lowest point.”
When Reverend J.C. Shoaf, the owner of Southeastern Monument Company, was questioned about the course of action, he admitted that removing the marker was wrong. However, he also defended the action because he and the family had been “engaged in a financial battle” for quite some time. “I hated to do it. I’m not heartless and I have had a child die, so I know how it feels. But what was I to do?” said Shoaf, 73, who has been a Baptist minister for 50 years. “I thought having (the marker) would give me some leverage. In hindsight, I should have just written it up as a bad debt.”
Amanda Foster WBTV spoke with both the parents of the 5-year-old and the company who made the marker. Hear from both of them, on WBTV News at 11pm.
Shoaf says he’s been in business for 56 years and that this is the first time a grave marker was repossessed. He said, “This could ruin my reputation. Hopefully, we can get this resolved, even if I take a loss on it.”
According to Shoaf, the problem between him and the family “built to this conclusion.” Reportedly, the parents wanted a smaller, simpler marker, but chose to purchase an upgraded version the next day which added approximately 400 pounds tot he size of the marker — and $2,500 in costs. The Leathermans say they were unaware of the additional expenses.
For a time, Shoaf maintained that the family owed him $918. When the bad press began affecting his business, however, he offered his condolences to the family and waived all expenses.
“We waive all expenses from the Leatherman family,” he told WBTV. “If there are charges to be paid to the cemetery to have this reinstalled, we will pay all expenses for doing that. … In hindsight, it was a big mistake to have the cemetery remove it, we see it now, but we do offer the family our condolence and forgiveness … we hope they forgive us. It has hurt everybody involved, and we hope they have it in their heart to forgive us for it. Our prayers are with the family, and we hope we can be friends down the road.”
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